The home looks as though the residents have just stepped out for a moment.
A blanket is thrown casually across a bed. Dolls grace the shelves in a little girl's room. The refrigerator is stocked. The dining room table is set. Wood is stacked in the soot-stained fireplace. Portraits of smiling children rest in small frames here and there.
But no one has ever lived here.
This house in Dana Point is new and for sale--as is.
John Lloyd, a San Juan Capistrano builder, is betting that someone will spend $3.65 million for a four-bedroom oceanfront home that requires the buyer bring only a toothbrush and clothes on move-in day.
In a unique approach to building and selling luxury homes in Orange County, Lloyd, 56, is offering the 5,300-square-foot Lantern Bay home for sale fully equipped from towels in the bathrooms and a rolling pin in the pantry to a parlor grand piano in the living room and a new Rolls-Royce in the garage.
"If you stop with the structure, a house is like an unfinished symphony," Lloyd says. "It's like a car without upholstery or a teddy bear without stuffing. Something is missing.
"I see a house as a work of art. If a guy doesn't like my vision, then he can buy another house. I like being a pioneer. I'm in no hurry."
Fully furnished houses have occasionally been sold in such upper-crust real estate markets as Bel Air and Brentwood in Los Angeles and some areas near New York City. But Tom Hribar, a real estate broker with ReMax South County and an 11-year veteran of selling luxury homes, says Lloyd is on the cutting edge in terms of both price and concept.
"He's at the absolute high end of the market. I'm not aware of any at the moment where the asking price is that high."
Hribar said he doesn't know anyone else in the area who has tried to sell a completely furnished house, "but in this market, there is always room for creative thought. He that dares to be different may prove to be successful."
Most high-end buyers are sophisticated, experienced dealers in real estate, very demanding and very critical, Hribar said. "The jury is still out," he said, on whether such a buyer would be willing to accept Lloyd's choice of home furnishings.
"But there may be that one individual out there to whom buying a $3.5-million house is the same as the rest of us buying one for $100,000, who will just step up and say, 'I'll take it.' "
Lloyd, who has built homes, offices and business parks throughout Southern California, says he was inspired by his own experience to build and sell a people-ready home.
"I built the Bank Americard facility in Pasadena (in the early 1970s) and I had a lot of money. I made my first million when I was 39. I was new rich, looking for a way to spend it. I lived in Pasadena, but one day in 1974 I was in Newport Beach looking to buy a boat, and I stopped to look at homes in Promontory Bay. I walked into a model, completely furnished. I told the man I wanted to buy it the way it was--artwork, dishes, towels, everything.
"He didn't take me seriously until I pulled out my checkbook and wrote a check on the spot. On June 15, 1974, we brought our clothes down and walked in the door.
"I thought this was a fabulous way to do it. I was amazed no one else did and I said I'm going to do this."
Lloyd, a builder by trade but architect at heart, is an ardent admirer of early 20th Century architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
"He brought the outside inside. He married the structure to the environment; he eliminated the feeling of having entered a house."
The starting point for Lloyd, too, is the site for the house.
"Many people look at a site in terms of problems. I don't. I spent $1.4 million for land (in Rancho Santa Fe) that has huge rock outcroppings. Most people would blast them out. I'm going to build them into the house.
"I'm looking for an environment that I can draw through and inside the house. I want many spaces, open, fluent, so people aren't boxed in. A building is people with a skin around them. If you forget the people, then you have no reason to build."
Lloyd says it typically takes him two to three years to complete a project.
"I'll go to a site in a motor home with a landscape architect and an artist. We'll take lunch and a bottle of wine. We'll walk around, talk, sit and just look at it. Then we'll go back and each come up with wildest thoughts about how to build. I never laugh at a creative idea. I believe in what Walt Disney called 'plussing'--in brainstorming there are no negative thoughts, only thoughts that take an idea further."
Although he works with a team throughout a project, Lloyd says he relies on his own vision to make key choices about design, materials and furnishings. "The worst thing is to design and build for someone else. I only need one person to see things as I do and buy what I make."
Lloyd's personal taste and method are apparent in the Lantern Bay house, which took 18 months to build. The plastered exterior, tile roof and exposed beams are elements of a style he calls an updating of the Monterey Mission architecture. Because the Lantern Bay lot is small, he made the house appear larger by building the house with a roof-line that suggests a cluster of buildings.
The environment Lloyd sought to draw into the house is the view--a spectacular 110-degree panorama of Dana Point Harbor and the Pacific. The house is built on several levels, each with its own vista. Rooms, windows and spaces have a horizontal look, reflecting the view.
Lloyd made an exterior courtyard look like a continuation of the interior by using glass doors that can disappear into the walls. The tile outside is the same as that inside, further blurring the boundary between in and out.
What also sets the house apart from being just a well-designed home with a view are the furnishings. Lloyd said everything in the house was chosen because he likes it and it relates well to everything else.
For example, the two dozen artworks in the home--from the life-size painting of a Western dance hall girl in the main stairwell to the small bronze figurines by Frederic Remington--are linked either thematically or through color. Contemporary paintings are tied to Western-style works through common framing materials and styles. Even the copper bands in the frames of some pictures reflect the copper gutters on the exterior of the house.
The TV and stereo are installed with a special sound system to fit the living room.
In the carpeted and fully plastered garage, a $210,000 Rolls-Royce Corniche III convertible sports an off-white shade that matches the house plaster.
The patio furniture is made of teak that will weather to a whitish hue to match the lightly whitewashed Douglas fir door and window trim.
Bedspreads and lamp shades are hand-painted with colors that match or complement the house color scheme.
Lloyd and his daughter, Colleen, 27, an interior designer, scoured local markets and some in Santa Fe, N.M., for furniture that reflects the style of the house. Some pieces were custom built.
On a recent afternoon, as the finishing touches are added to the house, Lloyd is everywhere, displaying his hands-on approach.
"Building is an art for me. I am an orchestra leader in the business of creating. I've made a great deal of money but the creative process is what is most satisfying. And that process is very hands-on.
"I have to be on the job a lot to catch small but crucial details."
He points to a set of large windows in the master bedroom that frame a view of the harbor. "If we had followed the plan, we would have lost this view because the windows called for were too small. I spotted that at the framing stage and had bigger windows installed."
Continuing his inspection of the house and his attention to detail, Lloyd stops to instruct an associate, who usually is out scouting land parcels, in the proper way to hand-rub wax into the wooden banister. Later, he spots a terra-cotta bowl that he says will have to be rubbed with white stain to make its shade conform to the muted tone of the house.
He ensures that the temperature- and humidity-controlled wine cabinet is stocked, that the cookbooks are in place on the kitchen shelf, that plates and glasses are stacked and ready.
Lloyd's son, Bill, 31, a partner with his father in the house project, says Lloyd came one day to inspect the just-completed tile work in the bathrooms. It was well-done, according to plan, Bill says, all in 4-by-4-inch tiles.
"He looked it over and said, 'It doesn't feel right. Rip it out.' We had to gut all the bathrooms and replace the tile with 6-by-6-inch."
"I do a lot on feelings," Lloyd says. "I think that if you go on your feelings, you'll come out all right. I look for supporting critique, but I stay on my track."
Satisfied that the house is nearly ready to be shown to buyers, Lloyd climbs into his gleaming black four-wheel drive GMC truck and heads back to the Lloyd Enterprises office. He talks of future projects. He is building a larger house in the hills above San Juan Capistrano and an industrial park in Rancho Santa Fe.
But what he really wants to do is build a city.
"When I was a kid, I used to make little towns in the dirt. Now I'm looking for larger pieces of ground; I'm looking for the jewel, about 500 acres to build a complete community.
"When I was 7 years old, I built my first swimming pool--a whole dug in the dirt. I filled it up with water and got in, but I couldn't get out; it was over my head. If the ground had been less porous, I might not be here today. But I've always tended to reach over my head to do my best."